Folk Songs


Folk Songs

Luciano Berio
Born October 24, 1925 in Oneglia
Died May 27, 2003 in Rome, Italy

By Marianne Williams Tobias
The Marianne Williams Tobias Program Note Annotator Chair

Luciano Berio, 1925-2003, was an Italian musician, composer, conductor, and music theorist (founder of the journal Incontri Musicali, known for his leadership in avant-garde music; especially in the aleatoric (chance) and electronic fields. His Folk Songs, 1964, were written for and dedicated to his wife at that time, mezzo-soprano Cathy Berberian, during the composer’s residency at Mills College. The set was conceived originally for small ensemble, and later expanded for symphony orchestra in 1973.

Regarding the title, Berio commented: “My links with folk music are often of an emotional character. When I work with that music, I am always caught by the thrill of discovery... I return again and again to folk music because I try to establish contact between that and my own ideas about music. I have a utopian dream, though I know it cannot be realized: I would like to create a unity between folk music and our music – a real, perceptible, understandable conduit between ancient, popular music-making which is so close to everyday work and music.” In Luciano Berio: Two Interviews by David Osmond-Smith, Berio reflected; “My interest in folklore is very longstanding — even as a boy I was writing pastiche folksongs. Recently this interest has put down deeper roots, and I have tried to gain a more specific and technical understanding of the processes that govern certain folk idioms...”

The songs in this collection – perhaps the earliest example of Berio’s fascination and experimentation with different musical culture and vernaculars, stem from eight countries and regions: America, Armenia, Auvergne, Azerbaijan, France, Italy, Sardinia, and Sicily.

1. Black is the Color: USA
2. I Wonder as I Wander: USA
3. The Moon has Risen: Armenia
4. Little Nightingale: France
5. The Ideal Woman: Italy
6. Dance: Italy
7. Song of Sadness: Sardinia
8. Wretched is He (Auvergne and dedicated to France) 

© Marianne Williams Tobias, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 2015 

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